Sunday, October 26, 2008
Racism and Poverty
Racism and Poverty
The people of Haiti are as poor as human beings can be.
According to the statisticians of the World Bank and others who speculate about
how many Anglos can dance on the head of a peon, Haiti may either be the
second, third or fourth poorest country in the world.
In Haiti’s case, statistics are irrelevant.
When large numbers of people are reduced to eating dirt – earth, clay – it
is impossible to imagine poverty any more absolute, any more desperate, any
more inhuman and degrading.
The chairman of the World Bank visited Haiti this past week. This man, Robert
Zoellick, is an expert finance-capitalist, a former partner in the investment
bankers Goldman Sachs, whose 22,000 ‘traders” last year averaged bonuses of
more than $600,000 each.
Goldman Sachs paid out over &18 billion in bonuses to its traders last year,
about 50% more than the GDP of Haiti’s 8 million people.
The chairman of Goldman took home more than $70 million and his lieutenants –
as Zoellick once was – $40 million or more, each.
It should be clear that someone like Robert Zoellick is likely to be totally
bemused by Haiti when his entertainment allowance could probably feed the
entire population for a day or two. It is not hard to understand that Mr
Zoellick cannot understand why Haiti needs debt relief.
Haiti is now forced by the World Bank and Its bloodsucking siblings like the
IMF, to pay more than $1 million a week to satisfy debts incurred by the
Duvaliers and the post-Duvalier tyrannies. Haiti must repay this debt to prove
its fitness for ‘help’ from the Multilateral Financial Institutions (MFI).
One million dollars a week would feed everybody in Haiti even if only at a very
basic level – at least they would not have to eat earth patties. Instead the
Haitians export this money to pay the salaries of such as Zoellick
But Zoellick doesn’t see it that way. According to the World Bank’s website
the bank is in the business of eradicating poverty. At the rate it does that in
Haiti the Bank, I estimate, will be in the poverty eradication business for
another 18,000 years.
The reason Haiti is in its present state is pretty simple. Canada, the United
States and France, all of whom consider themselves civilised nations, colluded
in the overthrow of the democratic government of Haiti four years ago. They did
this for several excellent reasons:
• Haiti 200 years ago defeated the world’s then major powers, France
(twice) Britain and Spain, to establish its independence and to abolish
plantation slavery. This was unforgivable.
• Despite being bombed, strafed and occupied by the United States early in
the past century, and despite the American endowment of a tyrannical and brutal
Haitian army designed to keep the natives in their place, the Haitians insisted
on re-establishing their independence. Having overthrown the Duvaliers and
their successors, the Haitians proceeded to elect as president a little black
parish priest who had become their hero by defying the forces of evil and
• The new president of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide refused to sell out
(privatise) the few assets owned by the government (the public utilities
• Aristide also insisted that France owed Haiti more than $25 billion in
repayment of blood money extorted from Haiti in the 19th century, as alleged
compensation for France’s loss of its richest colony and to allow Haiti to
gain admission to world trade;
• Aristide threatened the hegemony of a largely expatriate ruling class of
so-called ‘elites’ whose American connections allowed them to continue the
parasitic exploitation and economic strip mining of Haiti following the
• Haiti, like Cuba, is believed to have in its exclusive economic zone, huge
submarine oil reserves, greater than the present reserves of the United States
• Haiti would make a superb base from which to attack Cuba.
The American attitude to Haiti was historically based on American disapproval
of a free black state just off the coast of their slave-based plantation
economy. This attitude was pithily expressed in Thomas Jefferson’s idea that
a black man was equivalent to three fifths of a white man. It was further
apotheosized by Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan
who expostulated to Wilson: “Imagine! Niggers speaking French!”
The Haitians clearly did not know their place. In February 2004, Mr John
McCain’s International Republican Institute, assisted by Secretary of State
Colin Powell, USAID and the CIA, kidnapped Aristide and his wife and
transported them to the Central African Republic as ‘cargo’ in a plane
normally used to ‘render’ terrorists for torture outsourced by the US to
Egypt, Morocco and Uzbekistan.
Before Mr Zoellick went to Haiti last week, the World Bank announced that Mr.
Zoellick’s visit would “emphasize the Bank's strong support for the
country.” Mr. Zoellick added: "Haiti must be given a chance. The
international community needs to step up to the challenge and support the
efforts of the Haitian government and its people."
“If Robert Zoellick wants to give Haiti a chance, he should start by
unconditionally cancelling Haiti’s debt,” says Brian Concannon of the
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. “Instead the World Bank- which
was established to fight poverty- continues to insist on debt payments when
Haitians are starving to death and literally mired in mud.”
“After four hurricanes in a month and an escalating food crisis it is
outrageous that Haiti is being told it must wait six more months for debt
relief,” said Neil Watkins, National Coordinator of Jubilee USA Network.
“Haiti’s debt is both onerous and odious”, added Dr. Paul Farmer of
Partners In Health. “The payments are literally killing people, as every
dollar sent to Washington is a dollar Haiti could spend on healthcare,
nutrition and feeding programs, desperately needed infrastructure and clean
water. Half of the loans were given to the Duvaliers and other dictatorships,
and spent on Presidential luxuries, not development programs for the poor. Mr.
Zoellick should step up and support the Haitian government by cancelling the
“Unconditional debt cancellation is the first step in addressing the
humanitarian crisis in Haiti,” according to Nicole Lee, Executive Director of
TransAfrica Forum. “There is also an urgent need for U.S. policy towards
Haiti to shift from entrenching the country in future debt to supporting
sustainable, domestic solutions for development.”
The above quotations are taken from an appeal by the organisations represented
Further comment is superfluous.
Poverty and Globalisation
President Jean Bertrand Aristide, now in enforced exile in South Africa, might
be sardonically entertained by a new report just published by the world’s
Club of the Rich, the OECD –Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
This report, titled “Growing Unequal” examines the accelerating trend
toward economic inequality in the societies of the world’s richest countries.
The report contains several mind-blowing discoveries which will, no doubt,
amaze journalists and policy-makers in the Western hemisphere and keep them
entertained for many years.
The major finding is that globalisation and free trade have hurt millions of
people, particularly the poorest.
Another ground-breaking discovery is that “work reduces poverty”.
One of these days Jamaicans and other Caribbean people may decide to find out
whether these theses are true and whether if they are, we should have signed on
to the new EPA with the European Union.
If our ginnigogs were able and willing to read they might become aware of a
phenomenon called the “resource curse’ which appears to condemn developing
countries with enormous mineral wealth to misery, war, corruption and
If our ginnigogs could or would read, they might find it useful to discover
whether an acre of land under citrus or pumpkins is not more productive,
sustainable and valuable than that same acre destroyed for bauxite.
If our ginnigogs could or would read, they might become aware of the fate of
the island of Nauru, ‘discovered’ less than two hundred years ago, mined
for phosphate, returning a per capita national income rivaling Saudi Arabia’s
two and three decades ago and now to be abandoned because the land has been
mined to death and is destined to disappear shortly beneath the waves of global
Softly, softly, catchee monkee
If our ginnigogs were able to read and willing and able to defend the interests
of Jamaica and the Jamaican people they might discover that bauxite mining
will, within a relatively short time, contaminate all the water resources of
Jamaica, destroy our cultural heritage, wipe out our priceless biological
diversity, deprave our landscape and reduce those of us who survive to a state
of penury and hopelessness. Goodbye tourism, goodbye farming, welcome hunger,
welcome clay patties.
According to the experts if you drop a live lobster into a pot of boiling water
the creature will make frenzied efforts to escape. If, on the other hand, you
put him in a pot of cold water and bring it slowly to the boil, the lobster
will perish without a struggle.
Jamaica, on the atlas, is shaped a bit like a lobster.
Copyright © 2008 John Maxwell